Planning bombshell

01. 22NEWSA SENIOR state Liberal MP wants a new and powerful unelected body to decide Fremantle’s redevelopment future.

Former cabinet minister Simon O’Brien flagged in Parliament last week that at the next sitting of the Upper House he would call for a body similar to those that oversaw major facelifts of East Perth and Midland.

EPRA and the MRA had wide powers and often barrelled through local opposition and council rules to achieve their aims. Mr O’Brien—an Applecross-based MLC stripped of his transport portfolio following the March 9 election—describes planning for the port city as “incomplete” and “piecemeal” and says a Fremantle Redevelopment Authority will put the jigsaw together.

The Herald understands Mr O’Brien has privately tried to placate locals by saying his focus is on the port. In 2007 he mooted turning North Quay over to housing, but that plan was scotched when Troy Buswell took over as transport minister.

But Fremantle Labor MP Simone McGurk says the government is “sneakily” using Mr O’Brien to put broader issues on the agenda. She says the push should “ring alarm bells”.

The Metropolitan Redevelopment Act gives the government power to resume land in declared redevelopment authority boundaries with little community input.

“Fremantle needs to be revitalised but this must be done in a way sensitive to our heritage assets,” Ms McGurk says.

“I am concerned a redevelopment authority may neglect community consultation by removing any democratic input, and could exploit its powers to resume land.”

Mayor Brad Pettitt, who didn’t see Mr O’Brien’s move coming, urges caution, saying an FRA should be an “option of last resort”.

“I think the Fremantle 2029 visioning process and other roundtables would be more suited than a redevelopment authority for Fremantle for [long-term planning].”

The mayor says if the government wants to speed up Freo’s redevelopment, it should put some cash into the Fremantle Union. Its members include the heads of WA’s two major planning departments.

Deputy mayor Josh Wilson describes it as “utterly wrong-headed”: “There is no lack of capacity in Freo when it comes to planning, vision or implementation. We do need the WA government to get off its hands and meet us halfway. At the moment, you’d be hard-pressed to point to a single project or a single dollar of support.”

Mr O’Brien says Fremantle’s elected council “should not feel threatened. The simple fact is that only the state government is able to mobilise the planning, transport and related expertise required for the job,” he says.

“I am concerned about the future of Fremantle.”

He says an FRA is, “not just about Fremantle…it is about restoring Fremantle to a position of eminence in the Western Australian landscape”.


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